| By Billy Davis
The azaleas are blooming.
The birds are singing.
And neighbors are complaining to the City of Batesville about the junky, trash-filled yard next door.
"This time of year, our phones begin ringing and the complaints start coming," said John McCollum, code enforcement officer for the city.
In the code enforcement office, McCollum is solely responsible for enforcing the City of Batesville’s junk ordinance, which forbids non-working automobiles and trashy or junky yards.
Complaints can be made to the code enforcement office at 563-6621. The complainant remains anonymous, he said.
Noticing that the number of complaint calls are increasing, McCollum wanted to warn property owners that they may hear from him in coming days and weeks.
A "junk" citation could wind up in city court, but few do, McCollum said. Property owners may curse and complain, but most clean up their yards and avoid a court appearance.
"When you’re written up, you have seven calendar days to clean it up," McCollum said. The next step is a court appearance, he said.
Batesville contractor Pat Bryant said he went "’round and ’round" with the city just a few years ago when he stored construction supplies in and around a rental house located next door to his home on Broad Street. He built a privacy fence, but the complaints continued.
"The fence was probably like putting a Band-Aid on a big cut," admitted Bryant, who eventually tore down the rental home and cleaned the entire lot.
The city’s junk ordinance defines junk as items that are "not able to be used in the manner or for the purposes for which it was designed or constructed, or is inoperative, or is in a state of disrepair, or scrap metal, or is discarded, or is no longer in its original form, or old or scrap copper, brass, rope, rags, batteries, paper, trash, rubber debris, waste, or dismantled or wrecked motor vehicles, or parts thereof, iron, steel, and other old or scrap metals, or motor vehicle (including but not limited to cars, trucks, four wheelers, three wheelers and motorcycles) that is incapable of being moved under its own power or rendered inoperative by reason of a lack of any essential parts such as wheels, tires, motor, radiator, or other essential components."
The junk ordinance was adopted by city officials in June, 2003.
Last year, the Panola County Board of Supervisors looked at a similar ordinance dealing with junk cars and junky property but took no action.
Since 2003, the city’s junk ordinance has led to 299 citations of violations being issued by code enforcement, leading to 577 vehicles being removed from the city.
McCollum said he will "hit the streets" next week with about 25 complaints in hand. He always travels with a police officer to each home, he said.
"We’re really about to get serious around here," said Batesville Mayor Jerry Autrey. "(Police Chief) Tony Jones is going after the dopers, and John McCollum is going after the junky property."
| By Jason C. Mattox
A sign variance request for Fred’s Pharmacy was denied by the Batesville Planning Commission during a meeting Monday night.
Paul Williams of Custom Signs was present to formally make the variance request.
"They are putting a drive-thru in for the Fred’s Pharmacy," he said. "And they would like to get a variance to allow for the signage."
The sign would be placed in the middle of the parking lot where the drive-thru will be located.
Williams admitted that Fred’s was already over their signage allotment.
"They know they are already over their allowance without the new sign, and that’s why we are having to request a variance," he said.
Commission chairman Nell Foshee asked how much Fred’s was exceeding the signage allotment.
"They’re over a lot," Williams replied. "I’m not really sure exactly how much they are over."
Commission member Brad Clark acknowledged his disapproval early on during the discussion.
"I am firmly against this," he said. "They are already over the limit and additional signage has already been denied by the city board."
The Batesville Board of Aldermen previously denied a variance request to allow more signage that would have placed the word pharmacy on the building.
"If they want to get rid of some of their existing signage, it might be something we would consider," Clark said. "But they are already well over their limit."
Code Enforcement Office administrator Pam Comer said the planned awning and directional signs were allowed without coming before the commission.
The recommendation of the commission will be presented to aldermen during their next meeting on April 3 and a hearing will be scheduled.
"That is standard procedure," Comer explained in a phone conversation on Tuesday. "Once they have had the hearing, the board will make the final decision."
In other commission business, the allowance of a conditional use permit for the Panola Partnership to operate SpringFest on the Downtown Square May 18-19 will be presented to the board of aldermen at the April 3 meeting at City Hall.